Then he showed me the high priest Joshua standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this man a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” And to him he said, “See, I have taken your guilt away from you, and I will clothe you in festal apparel.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him in the apparel; and the angel of the LORD was standing by.
When I was in elementary school a perceptive teacher told me that I was a “visual learner” and then explained what she meant. She told me that I am one who learns best from images and pictures; I remember best what I can see or visualize. I think that is why I am drawn to the many visuals in Scriptures, the many images of deep spiritual truths. Such is the fascinating image given to us by the Old Testament prophet Zechariah.
Zechariah relates a vision he received of the high priest Joshua ministering before the altar of God. But as he ministers, Satan stands at his right hand accusing him. Zechariah makes a play-on-words, telling us the “Accuser” (Hebrew: Satan), stands there to “accuse” him. Here again we see Satan the Accuser in his characteristic role. Just at the same moment Joshua enters the Lord’s presence, the enemy of our soul attacks.
But it is then the Lord intervenes on His servant’s behalf: “And the LORD said to Satan (the Accuser), The LORD rebuke you, O Satan (the Accuser)!” Remarkably we see the high priest standing before God’s altar “dressed in filthy clothes”. The Hebrew original is more graphic: he is “dressed in excrement covered clothes”. He is actually ceremonially unclean, rendered unfit to minister to the Lord.
Now “the angel of the LORD” enters the picture. Bible commentators explain that in the Old Testament the angel of the LORD is the pre-incarnate Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity. It is the Son of God who comes to the rescue, commanding those standing near the high priest: “Take off his filthy clothes.” Then the angel of the Lord speaks words symbolic of the righteousness God gives in Jesus Christ: “See, I have taken your guilt away from you, and I will clothe you in festal apparel.” God takes away the sin and the guilt of the sinner and clothes him (us!) in His very own righteousness!
This amazing imputation of righteousness is followed by the Lord’s command: “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” Significantly, the high priest’s turban was imprinted with the words: “Holy to the LORD” (Exodus 28:36; 39:30). Those standing by the high priest did just as the angel of the Lord commanded them: “So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him in the apparel; and the angel of the LORD was standing by.”
Yes! The angel of the Lord was standing by! The Lord Jesus Christ stood by Joshua the high priest as he went before the altar. So it is Jesus Christ who stands with us as we enter God’s presence to pray. He has taken away all of our sin and guilt and clothed us in His own righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). What a powerful visual God gives us! What a picture to take with us as we pray!
Chances are that the Accuser, Satan, has attacked as you have started to pray. You feel unworthy to enter God’s presence. You are reminded of your sin and disobedience. If so, you might find helpful the commentary of Charles Haddon Spurgeon on this vision of Zechariah:
But stop, Christian! Do not think of renouncing your priesthood; do not let a sense of unfitness keep you from your service! Stand where you are; for remember, you are standing in the only place where pollution can be washed away—you are standing before the Angel of the covenant! (Zechariah)
No less than Israel’s high priest we are “a brand plucked from the fire”. We stand before God clothed in all the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. We wear on our heads the proclamation that we are “Holy to the LORD.” The Son of God makes us ready to pray!
- Do feelings of guilt or shame ever trouble you as you pray or even keep you from praying?
- What does the text of Zechariah 3 say to you about your feelings of guilt when you pray?
- Now, knowing that you are clothed in Christ’s righteousness and are “holy” to the Lord, talk with Him about whatever is on your heart.
“O draw me to Your Father’s heart,
Lord Jesus, when I pray,
And whisper in my troubled ear,
‘Your sins are washed away.
Come home with Me today!’
At home within our Father’s house,
Your Father, Lord, and mine.”
James Torrance, from poem “I Know Not How to Pray”